Cox’s Bazar District is hosting over 910,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar,1 including 730,000 refugees who arrived after August 2017. A plan for their voluntary and sustainable return is being explored, though past attempts have been unsuccessful. Two years into the crisis, with the support of the Government, donors and humanitarian partners, necessary infrastructure and basic services have been established and are generating substantial improvements in children's well-being. Global acute malnutrition rates have dropped from 19 to 11 per cent;2 and 90 per cent of children aged 4 to 14 years have access to learning centres. However, significant challenges remain. The quality of education requires further improvement. Shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin remain highly susceptible to fire and damage during monsoons and cyclones. While access to water has improved, there are persistent issues with quality – 70 per cent of household water samples are contaminated.3 Overall vulnerability and social tensions in host communities require additional investments and a district-wide approach. Families across Bangladesh are also extremely vulnerable to flooding due to cyclones and monsoons, a situation that is exacerbated by the growing effects of climate change. The July 2019 floods affected 7.6 million people across half of the country.
UNICEF’s humanitarian response in Bangladesh is aligned with the 2020 Joint Response Plan and the 2019 Humanitarian Response and Recovery Plan. In 2020, UNICEF will prioritize: 1) providing life-saving health and nutrition services for children and pregnant women; 2) operating water networks and improving sanitation infrastructure and technology; 3) improving access to quality integrated non-formal education, including adolescents; 4) increasing access to protection services, including structured mental health and psychosocial support, and addressing violence, exploitation and abuse, including gender-based and sexual violence; 5) disseminating protection and peacebuilding messages through various media and household visits; and 6) strengthening feedback mechanisms for improved accountability to affected populations. UNICEF will continue to strengthen linkages between its humanitarian response and development programmes to achieve sustainable results for children and women in refugee camps and host communities. Integrated skills development for refugee and host community adolescents5 and youth will focus on building resilience. UNICEF will also invest in preparedness across the country, including in Cox’s Bazar, and respond to the massive floods of 2019, as well as any new humanitarian needs that arise. UNICEF leads the nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sectors/clusters and the child protection sub-sector/cluster and co-leads the education sector/cluster.
Results from 2019
As of 31 August 2019, UNICEF had US$84.5 million available against the US$152.2 million appeal (55 per cent funded).6 UNICEF and partner investments in prevention, social mobilization, service coverage and quality improvements in health, nutrition and water services have helped prevent major disease outbreaks. The number of learning centres has nearly doubled, from 1,300 to 2,500, with almost 50,000 more children attending these centres in 2019 than in 2018. Integrated vocational and life-skills programmes have been introduced, reaching 12,500 adolescent boys and girls in camps and host communities. Reaching all targeted adolescents remains challenging due to technical and space limitations in centre construction and partner capacity limitations. To improve the quality and sustainability of drinking water, UNICEF constructed piped water networks that have reached 40 per cent of the population in its geographical area of responsibility. Additional water networks planned through the end of 2019 aim to reach 80 per cent of the population. Safe spaces are being expanded in camps and introduced in host communities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Awareness-raising for partners on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse has been scaled up and mechanisms for reporting on and supporting survivors are being established.